Muslim Outreach: Obama Sends 1st Ambassador to Syria in 5 Years

Muslim Outreach: Obama Sends 1st Ambassador to Syria in 5
Years

January 21st, 2011

Elizabeth A. Kennedy, The Huffington Post

The first American ambassador to Syria since 2005 arrived in Damascus on
Sunday at a time of regional turmoil and with Syrian-U.S. relations still mired
in mutual distrust.
Few expect immediate changes, but having career diplomat Robert Ford in
Damascus offers Washington a better glimpse into Syria at a time of rising
tensions – particularly in neighboring Lebanon, where the Western-backed
government collapsed last week.
“Intelligence sharing is the most promising overlap in U.S.-Syrian
relations,” said Joshua Landis, an American professor and Syria expert. He noted
that like Washington, Syria’s secular regime is against al-Qaida and “takfiri”
Islamists, referring to an ideology that urges Sunni Muslims to kill anyone they
consider an infidel.
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The time of testing is coming for Obama

The time of testing is coming for Obama

Jim Stuart

In 1962, after nuclear missiles were discovered in Cuba, President John F. Kennedy faced down his Soviet Rival Nikita Khrushchev, almost precipitating a nuclear exchange. The principal reason JFK took a firm stand was to protect his image. In those days, with the Cold War in full swing, it was important to maintain a posture of strength and resolve.

Each side was constantly testing the other for signs of weakness that could be exploited. Earlier in 1961, Kennedy had been humiliated at the Bay of Pigs, and Eisenhower had warned him that the Soviets would be emboldened as a result. So when the missiles were discovered, Kennedy’s primary concern was not any strategic advantage they might pose (the US had offsetting nuclear missiles already installed in Italy and Turkey), but rather, that he not appear weak. Such was his concern for his image of strength and resolve that he was willing to risk a nuclear confrontation.Fast forward to the year 2010. While the Cold War has ended and the Soviet Union exists no longer, there is no shortage of hostile regimes or groups facing off against the US. These – Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, North Korea, Russia, China, and Al Qaeda who – while not as powerful militarily as was the USSR – are perhaps more aggressive and less predictable than the old foe. Certainly, there is little doubt that any one of them could wreak havoc if a major conflict were to break out.

From the perspective of our enemies, how is this administration shaping up in the area of strength and resolve? Under little or no pressure, Obama withdrew missile defenses in Eastern Europe. He has created deadlines and threatened sanctions against Iran which have been ignored without consequences. He has refused to confront Islamic jihad, treating the threat as a criminal issue, and been unwilling to address the theological roots of the conflict. When Russia orchestrated a coup in Kyrgyzstan, the Obama administration did not react. When China insisted that Obama not meet with the Dalai Lama, he backed down. When our military leaders recommended a surge in Afghanistan, Obama waffled for months, finally agreeing, but with the proviso that the troops be pulled out in 18 months. The 4th generation advanced fighter (Raptor) program was cancelled, as was our manned space program. Missile defense development has been curtailed. The primary military initiative of this administration has been political correctness with respect to Muslim extremists, the equal treatment of homosexuals in the army, and prosecuting Seals and CIA agents.

The administration has virtually and publically withdrawn its support for Israel, while Syria has been funneling large quantities of Iranian rockets and other weapons to Hezbollah, in violation of UN agreements. Recently, it was reported that these weapons included Scud missiles. Hardly a week goes by without an announcement by Iran that it is expanding and accelerating its uranium enrichment program, and will not reverse course under any circumstances. On the contrary, it has signed technology-sharing deals with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who, given the a little more time, will surely become a serious troublemaker himself. Lastly, but by no means least, a South Korean naval vessel was recently sunk by what is currently thought to have been a North Korean torpedo. What could possibly be North Korea’s intent, by such an action, except to test South Korea and the US?

Most of us have been too fixated by the spectacle of our country being overturned by Marxist revolutionary zealots to pay much attention to external threats. But in the meantime, our enemies have been watching as the US shows no will to fight, and no inclination to oppose aggression with anything stronger than teleprompted words. Surely, they must think, – this situation will not last, and that now is the time for adventurism. I do not believe we have long to wait.

Israel Says Syria Gave Missiles to Hezbollah

Israel Says Syria Gave Missiles to Hezbollah

By ETHAN BRONNER

JERUSALEM — Israeli officials say that Syria has delivered accurate long-distance Scud missiles to the Lebanese group Hezbollah, placing Israeli cities deep in its heartland, including Tel Aviv, within range.

The officials added that the delivery of the missiles — strongly denied by Syria and yet to be confirmed by sources outside of Israel — would change the strategic balance in the area and increase the risk of war.

The issue was raised by President Shimon Peres, who during a visit to Paris told journalists earlier this week, “Syria claims that it wants peace, while simultaneously delivering Scud missiles to Hezbollah, which is constantly threatening the security of the State of Israel.” He added, after meeting with the French prime minister, Francois Fillon, that Syria was playing “a double game.” Mr. Fillon, who was recently in the Syrian capital of Damascus, had told Mr. Peres that the government of President Bashar el-Assad wanted peace with Israel.

Mr. Peres did not specify which type of Scud missiles had been delivered. However, aides accompanying him and officials in Jerusalem said that the missiles in question were of a ballistic nature normally used only by state armies. One official said they were Scud D, the most accurate and long range.

“This creates a new situation,” another Israeli official said, insisting on anonymity because there were continuing diplomatic efforts to deal with the concern. “These are more accurate and far more dangerous.”

American and French officials have both said they were aware of the Israeli concerns but did not know whether the missiles had actually been delivered. “If such an action has been taken, and we continue to analyze this issue,” the State Department spokesman said on Wednesday, “clearly it potentially puts Lebanon at significant risk.”

Israel has long charged that Syria permitted and facilitated the arming of Hezbollah, which would make Lebanon a theater for clashes between Israel and Syria or Hezbollah.

Other Israeli officials speaking publicly have made somewhat more veiled charges than did Mr. Peres, indicating a concern over the possibility of new weapons deliveries.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday, for example, that Israel had no aggressive intentions toward Lebanon. But he noted that Hezbollah continued to build up its weapons supply, and that “introducing systems which change the strategic balance endangers the stability and calm here.” He did not say whether the systems had been introduced.Israel fought a month-long war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 in which the Shiite militia fired hundreds of mostly short-range rockets at Israel’s north. Since then, Israeli military officials have repeatedly said that Hezbollah is building up a far larger and more lethal arsenal, storing up to 40,000 rockets in underground bunkers in southern Lebanon.

Israeli officials have often said that the arsenal includes small numbers of both medium and longer-range rockets. But this appears to be the first time that they have gone public with their concern over Scud missiles.

In Washington, word of the possible transfer of such weapons may slow Senate confirmation of Robert Ford as the next ambassador to Syria. The United States withdrew its ambassador from Damascus in 2005 after the assassination in Lebanon of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which was said by many to be the work of Syrian or Syrian-backed agents.

Some Republican senators have indicated that they may delay dispatching Mr. Ford if the Scuds are shown to have been transferred.

In a news analysis in Wednesday’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, military writers Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff speculated that the Syrians were making the missile transfer because while they may want to trade the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for peace, “they do not sense that there is a genuine Israeli partner with whom they can reach agreement. Thus they prefer to bolster deterrence, which will prevent Israel from once again striking their territory, as it did in September 2007.”

Israel struck what many believe was a nascent nuclear reactor in Syria then.

Hezbollah is heavily supported by Iran, which Israel and Washington fear is developing a nuclear weapon. Israeli analysts say that the Hezbollah arsenal may be there largely to serve as potential retaliation should Israel attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.